Our 2010 China Trip
Page 6

Our days 12 thru 15 were spent in Lhasa the administrative capital of the Tibet Autonomous Region in the People's Republic of China and the second most populous city on the Tibetan Plateau. At an altitude of 11,450 ft, Lhasa is one of the highest cities in the world. It contains many culturally significant Tibetan Buddhist sites such as the Jokhang and Potala palaces.

We;ll visit both places.

This is our first view of Tibet. I thought it was Mt. Everest, but I was mistaken. It's still mighty impressive!

Here is our Lhasa city guide: Johnny. He spoke excellent english and was quite candid about the Chinese takeover of Tibet.

The Invasion of Tibet was a military action in 1950 that happened in the context of negotiations between the government of the new People's Republic of China (founded by Mao in 1949) and the separatist government of Tibet (led by the Dalai Lama). After months of divisions in the Tibetan government, failed negotiations, and Tibetan troop buildups, the People's Liberation Army (PLA) crossed into Tibet, defeating the Tibetan army. The PLA did not go on to invade the whole of Tibet however. Rather, they sent a captured commander, Ngabo, to Lhasa to reiterate terms of negotiation, and waited for Tibetan representatives to respond through delegates to Beijing.

Talks ensued and both governments signed the Seventeen Point Agreement a few months later, authorizing the PLA presence and Central People's Government rule. The Tibetan government was divided about the agreement, though crucially, the Dalai Lama was a supporter. With the help of the American Central Intelligence Agency, nationalist Tibetan militias, spurred also by government experiments in land reform, started fighting against the government in 1956. When the fighting spread to Lhasa in 1959, the Dalai Lama fled Tibet, and subsequently repudiated the agreement.

Is this TMI?

The Yak is the "national" animal of Tibet. They not provide the Tibetal people with butter, meat, and hair, they also produce an ample amount of dung which, when dried into patties, becomes a major fuel source.

Here is a Tibetan home on the outskirts of Lhasa. It was neat and tidy and well built. Notice the stark mountains in the background. Notice also that all the women ar wearing bucket hats. They seem to be the "national" hats of Lhasa.

This is the iconic view of the Potala Palace in Lhasa. It served as the residence of Dalai Lama until the 14th Dalai Lama fled to India. The palace is now a museum, with a rich collection of art including gold, silver, and jade relics and structures, some dating back to over several thousand years.

The palace is the highest palace in the world. It stands on top of Red Hill, at over an amazing 12,000 feet above sea level There are an additional 350 steps to get to the front door of the palace (the steps are behind that zig-zag wall).

The Palace consists of the White Palace and Red Palace. The Dalai lama lived in the White Palace. The Red Palace consists of temples and shrines.

Lozang Gyatso, the Dalai Lama, started the construction of the Potala Palace in 1645.The 'Red Palace' was added between 1690 and 1694.

Again, TMI?

Here is the entrance to the palace after you climb the 350 steps. you have to climb more steps inside the palace to see the sights. The Dalai Lamas quarters, the old government offices. numerous shrines (stuffed with money left by the faithful Buddists).

Unfortunately, it is "forbidden" to take pictures, but I got one of a shrine. It was illuminated with wicks burning in Yak butter. I'd probably end up in the dungeon if I got caught!

This is a composit shot of a soldier and a monk. There were armed Chinese soldiers everywhere and it was also "forbidden" to take their pictures (I got this one off the Internet).

These are open air yak butter and yak meat stalls. Of course, a Yak is a male bovine and you don't get much butter from them. The female is called a dri, although I never heard that word used in Lhasa.

The butter is used in cooking and in making cha (yak butter tea).

Here are a few Lhasa street scenes: Little kid pee pee, poopy poopy; street sweeper sweepy, sweepy; and a Buddist woman spinny, spinny (her prayer wheel).

I wonder if the sweeper is sweepy, sweepy the pee pee, poopy poopy?

Notice that the women are wearing aprons. The striped apron indicates that she is a married woman. Also notice the bucket hats. They were everywhere.

This is the Jokhang Buddist Temple in Lhasa. Jokhang means the 'House of the Buddha'. For most Tibetans it is the most sacred and important temple in Tibet.

The temple was first constructed probably in 642.and has remained a key center of Buddhist pilgrimage for centuries. It was sacked several times by the Mongols, but the building survived. In the past several centuries the temple complex was expanded and now covers an area of about 25,000 sq. meters.

The Jokhang temple sits on Barkhor Square in the old section of Lhasa. Pilgrims walk clock-wise around the temple chanting and spinning prayer wheels as part a pilgrimage to the site. Many will prostrate themselves in front of the temple before entering.

The interior is illuminated with yak butter candles. The soot from the candle has given everything a dark and spooky look. Of course, it's forbidden to photograph inside the temple. This is an Internet pic.

One of the more interesting things we saw at the temple was a group of Tibetan teenagers serving for a few weeks at the temple.

This day they were tampimg clay into the roof to make it waterproof. As the tamped, they chanted and danced - first the girls on the right, then the boys on the left. It was very rhythmical and they looked like they were having fun.

I was able to use my little camera to capture some of the chanting and dancing, but I don't know how to get it on my web site. Sorry!

One of the more bizarre things we learned about Tibet was that there is a burial method called "Sky Burial"

A body is brought to this monastery after a 3 day "wake" and special monks dismember and disembowel the corpse. The pieces are fed to vultures that fly down from the mountains. Any big bones (skull, backbone, pelvis, etc.) are further crushed and fed to the vultures until nothing remains. The vultures then carry the body (in their stomachs) to the mountain tops where their feces will be deposited in a lofty and holy place.

Some fun, ey? (PS Another Internet pic.)

We will depart Lhasa on a more pleasant note: We had dinner at the "Original Crazy Yak Restaurant". I had a Yak burger (It was dry and very coarsely chopped) and a local brew called "Barley Beer" (It was 3.8% alcohol - very weak).

The best part of the evening was the Tibetan song and dance show. It was lively, loud and very entertaining! Notice the Barley Beer bottles on the table.

That's it for Tibet! On the morning of day 15 we flew on Air China from the Lhasa Airport (very modern, clean, and efficient) to Chongqing in China (near Cheng Du) to start our 4 day Yangtze River cruise.

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